Jane Whittaker, the founder of Athena Worlds, talks about how a strong dream team of industry veterans was assembled, hints what Athena Worlds developers have up their sleeve to amaze the gamers, and discusses the company's future plans.
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The Athena Worlds team are without exaggeration some of the finest minds in the entertainment industry. I have been in the industry for nearly 40 years as both a developer and a publishing executive. I timeshare between the keyboard and the boardroom! During my career, I have developed titles such as the award-winning Alien vs Predator for Atari, as one of the two programmers for that game, leading titles at Electronic Arts, and worked on projects such as The Sims. I have been involved in everything from GoldenEye 007 on the N64 to Microsoft Flight Simulator in my long career.
Jane Whittaker, Founder, CEO, CTO
I have been joined by an incredible group of people, including Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari, developer of Pong, Asteroids, Breakout and so many iconic games that I grew up with. The supremely talented Emily Amphlett is known by many for leading the Candy Crush franchise for the last 7 years as Senior Producer, growing Candy Crush to the megahit that it is today. Sandeep Raithatha was former Director of Strategy for Sony, along with Director of Strategy at King for Candy Crush, and is known as one of the greatest strategic thinkers in our business. Julian Ward who has joined as Chief Legal Officer has had an illustrious career in our industry, including Head of Legal at Codemasters and a partner at Lee & Thompson, representing developers and publishers around the world.
We are also joined by others from the industry, on the development side, business side, and in between. We truly are a well-rounded studio made up of talented and driven people!
Emily Amphlett, CEO Mobile & Devices
Sandeep Raithatha, Chief Customer Officer
Julian Ward, Legal Advisor
Starting Athena Worlds
The Athena technology has been in development for over 5 years now, with myself and my team putting long hours into its development. On completion of the technology, I knew I was ready to go forward with a full development company to utilize the tech to create ground-breaking games. I approached people in the industry with the sole aim of involving the best people in the business with what we had. I literally had a wish list of the finest people in the business and approached each one of them to build the company with me. It is amazing, but each and every one of them was impressed with demonstrating and testing the tech in action and was happy to join Athena Worlds!
Nolan Bushnell, Senior Advisor
Dave Sharp, Advisor - External Business Development
Kevin Godley, Advisor - Creative, Non-Exec Director
Redefining Game Technology
We have announced that the team is working on video game technology with cinema-quality visuals, and this task is ambitious, yes, but already achieved. The Athena technology allows developers to enhance the visual quality of a game by around a factor of 10 or more. So, think your favorite gaming environments or game characters on steroids, in massively enhanced detail. The Athena software uses whole new 3D and AI algorithms to manage the flow of data to the video card. Rather than a raging river of data going to the card, Athena manages that flow and turns it into a stream. On average, 90% of data that would normally go to the video card, on any platform, from mobile phone to PC to console, is reduced. This means that your game can run either 10 times faster or 10 times more polygon detail can be added to the screen without slowing down performance. In effect, this means you can send 10 times more information to the card, whilst still pushing it less than a traditional game solution.
Speaking of our instruments, obviously, we have our Athena system, which is platform agnostic. We can use it on everything from a mid-range mobile phone to a PlayStation 5. Athena does not break traditional workflow but enhances it. This means we can continue to use platforms such as Unity to develop our own games with all the traditional art tools. Athena is a code library, utilized by the programmer, whether working in Unity, Unreal, or their own bespoke engine written from scratch. What that means is that our programmers, artists, musicians, etc., have the choice of industry tools at their disposal. Our tech works alongside those tools rather than replacing them.
We are currently working on in-house IP for mobile phones, PC and consoles. I am really looking forward to sharing details of those projects with you shortly. At this time, we have no plans for a cloud project, but would certainly be open to discussing one should we be asked. We also have no VR projects in development, but interestingly, to test the power of Athena, we created a VR demo to push rendering to its limits. The team and I have a great interest in VR. We play VR games in our spare time, so whilst we currently don’t have a VR project on the books, we certainly do not rule out the possibility of us creating one in the near future.
John Targett, Chief Financial Officer
Jason Shuster, Head of Operations
Hannah Jarvis, Head of Recruitment
Optimizing the Development Process
In your question, you noted that the farther the industry goes, the more expensive and time-consuming the process becomes, and you are right. There are two things here. Our Athena 3D system was designed to cut the cost of game development drastically, by around 40%. To be clear, Athena does not create art but massively cuts down on art costs and development time. It does this by the artist only having to create one high-resolution model for a game. The AI algorithm in Athena 3D then takes that model and rescales it to suit the target platform. It means we can share artwork across all formats, with the AI taking care of the scaling to the platform for performance.
Once running on the platform, 3D graphics rely on the level of detail models, to have reduced complexity models in the far distance from the camera. Rather than requiring the artist's intervention here too, Athena uses AI to dynamically create all levels of detailed versions of art. It uses a custom algorithm that reduces the detail in a model utilizing technique for maintaining integrity, using visual shaping algorithms to convince the eye that all of the detail is still there, rather than brute force model reduction. Overall, this leads to a massive saving in workload and art requirement which can really push a project forward quicker and with reduced development overheads.
The other side of the coin, however, is that there seems to be a school of thought in the industry that to make a great game, you need to spend years throwing assets at your creation. Spending enormous amounts of money on a game does not make it great. We have seen major titles release to big problems recently. We have also seen massive success of games such as Valheim, which only had a handful of developers. I come from the old school of developers (I started in the early 1980s in this business), where gameplay was paramount, where we did not have enormous amounts of resources. I only had 1k of memory on the first machine I made games for! So, you realize, graphics are there to support the gameplay and not replace it. The key is making a great game that is fun and that people want to play, not the number of animations in the game. With Athena 3D, we can make great games, cheaper, faster, with graphics that completely change the industry, allowing us more time to spend on creating great innovative gameplay. It is the best of both worlds!